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My mother in law just returned from Europe and brought me an espresso machine. It's rated 220v - 50 Hz (as written in the label), but the power system here is 220v - 60 Hz. Funny thing is that in the manufacturer website it says the model is actually 220v - 50/60 Hz.

Question is: can I use it here? By searching the internet I found some people saying it wouldn't work, others saying it would work but damage the machine eventually, and even others saying that the frequency difference only affects clocks/timers. So I'm kinda confused.

Should I try to use it?

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Are you able to contact the manufacturer by mail and just ask them? – Jan Fabry Aug 10 '10 at 21:27
@Jan yes, I just came here now to comment that. I managed to contact the manufacturer and they said it's safe to use this particular model in 60 Hz. Now I just need to buy an adapter, since the wall plug is completely different from my wall socket... – Rodrigo Sieiro Aug 10 '10 at 21:59
That sounds like a jolly good idea! – Jeremy McGee Aug 16 '10 at 19:41
up vote 7 down vote accepted

The 60 Hz represents the frequency at which the voltage in the wire oscillates. Heating elements don't care about this, and neither do most electronic components as they turn this alternating current (AC) into constant (DC) direct current anyway.

If this is an all-singing, all-dancing, computer controlled extra-fancy espresso machine then I'd steer clear, though, as there's a remote chance you've one of the few devices where the cycles-per-second makes a difference. If it just uses power to heat an element you should be fine.

Disclaimer: operating the device outside of the region it's designed for will certainly void the warranty, and coffee in excess isn't good for you anyway.

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What do you mean coffee in excess isn't good for you? sip twitch – Doresoom Aug 10 '10 at 13:29
It's a very simple manual espresso maker with a milk steamer, so I'm guessing there are no timers/electronics inside. I think I'll try. I know it will void the warranty, but since I'm VERY far from the manufacturer I guess I wouldn't be able to use it anyway :) I found a set of pics from its internals here (flickr.com/photos/22008695@N03/sets/72157624161345084), it really looks like there are no fancy components. – Rodrigo Sieiro Aug 10 '10 at 14:09
I knew there was an odd taste to my beverage this morning! Agree, I don't think there's anything fancy going on there. You'll most likely find the label is CE stamped, and if so the manufacturer won't have gone through the process of having it approved for 60Hz usage in the EU - that's mighty expensive for them to do. Easier to print a different set of labels. – Jeremy McGee Aug 10 '10 at 20:43
Heating elements may not care about 50Hz to 60Hz, but probably will care about dropping from 60Hz to 50Hz. Doing so will make it work harder because the voltage spends more time in the positive and negative peaks and therefore draw provide more current. This effect also overheats anything with windings, like electric motors and transformers. – spoulson Aug 11 '10 at 11:59
"Coffee in Excess" -- I can understand the meaning of each of those words, yet somehow the entire phrase doesn't make any sense. – Chris Cudmore Jul 10 '12 at 17:08

I would not trust the manufacturer's website: there is a chance that the batch of coffee makers that yours came from was made with a different power supply or some other difference. Instead, look at the little sign that has model numbers, serial number, voltage, etc. If it says 220 V 50/60 Hz, then it's probably safe to use it in the US.

If it says 220 V 50 Hz, it's more uncertain. Many components should work fine, but perhaps some may overheat, not work, or run at the wrong speed. If the alternative is to throw the machine in the garbage, I would try it (with a transformer in order to convert 110 V to 220 V) but unplug it when not in use.

(P.S. Interesting tidbit: much of southern California used 50 Hz until 1948.)

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You're right: my alternative would be to throw it away. So I guess I'll try to see what happens... – Rodrigo Sieiro Aug 10 '10 at 14:11
I second the "unplug it when not in use" comment – Scott W Aug 10 '10 at 17:57

Certain AC motors (synchronous motors) will turn at a rate proportional to the input frequency. Fancy espresso machines contain pumps, which may or may not be synchronous. So, it's possible that the different power line frequency will effect the machine's output.

If it has a pump driven by a synchronous motor, it'd be running slightly out of spec (20% different), which would produce a different water pressure than it expected. I believe that it shouldn't cause much of a difference in operation, but one would need to analyze the complete system to be sure.

Try it, and see what happens. There are unlikely to be any safety concerns with using the wrong power line frequency in this case.

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Are you in the US? If so our household current is ~110V 60Hz unless you are using a special purpose outlet which are often used for air conditioners or electric oven/stoves and has a different plug/outlet which supply ~220V 60Hz. The ac frequency is unlikely to matter, but using the lower voltage is unlikely to work, also unlikely to damage anything.

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I'm not in the US. I live in Brazil, and I have both 110v and 220v wall sockets at home. I'll just have to unplug my washing machine whenever I want to make coffee :) – Rodrigo Sieiro Aug 10 '10 at 22:02

All you need is a step up/step down transformer. It will convert 110v 60hz to 220v 50hz and vice versa. I used to get electronics from Japan and had to buy a transformer to make my Famicom work in the US :) Just FYI - the step up transformer purchased 15+ years ago for that purpose is still being used in my mother's house.

Something like this would work EDIT: actually too small for an espresso machine

Probably more like this

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Make sure it's rated for the power of the espresso machine or you'll burn out the converter or the espresso machine. – spoulson Aug 10 '10 at 19:19
That transformer won't change the frequency, just the voltage - so not much use, I fear. – Jeremy McGee Aug 10 '10 at 20:40
My Ninetendo Famicom was supposed to be run on 100v/50hz and still ran fine for many years on stepped down 60 cycle power. Since the OP's espresso machine is 50/60hz compatible the step down transformer will work fine. – kkeilman Aug 10 '10 at 21:20

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